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The Work That Made Me: Justin Barnette



Deutsch LA strategist Justin Barnette shares tales and anecdotes of his most significant influences, biggest cringeworthy moments and the work that's got him to where he is today

The Work That Made Me: Justin Barnette
Strategist at one of the world's most innovative marketing and advertising companies, Deutsch LA, Justin Barnette works across a range of social media outputs including community management, strategy, research, content creation, production, copywriting and design. Justin's role is to convey the overall brand strategy through social media with a focus on growth, engagement and cultural relevance. Here, he opens up on the creative projects that have most influenced his career.

The ad / music video from my childhood that stays with me…

This Nike ad for Kobe Bryant’s signature Hyperdunk shoe was way ahead of its time. The day after it aired during a Lakers playoff game, I remember going to school and spending the entire lunch period debating with my friends about if Kobe actually jumped over the Aston Martin or not. What was really dope to me was that its format was so outside the box as far as TV commercials go. This one was a one-shot home video quality production at a time when the world was accustomed to high production picture perfect TV ads.

The ad / music video / game / web platform that made me want to get into the industry…

It was actually a panel discussion that I attended while in college that made me want to get into the industry. The panel discussed the lack of diversity in advertising agencies and how valuable black voices are when it comes to mass communications. At the time, I was running my own business, and really enjoyed the marketing aspect of it, so the idea of being able to work on advertising/marketing full-time sounded very appealing to me. I also know that I have a very unique and insightful point-of-view coming from a background in music, fashion, and entrepreneurship that I wanted gives me the ability to speak to a demographic of people that are often misrepresented or looked over. Being present at that panel discussion felt like a calling to join the industry.

The creative work (film / album / game / ad / album / book / poem etc) that I keep revisiting…

Erykah Badu’s Baduism album has been my go-to since I was a kid. Before I was old enough to fully grasp the content, I could still feel the energy. The creativity and artistry in those songs always put me in a great space mentally.

My first professional project…

When I was 18 years old, I independently put out an album called Rude Awakening, which was the first of eight total albums I released during my music career. This project was special for me because it was the first time that I really expressed myself artistically in a public way. Up until then I was a really shy and introverted kid (which I hated). Music helped me break out of that shell.

The piece of work (ad / music video / platform…) that made me so angry that I vowed to never make anything like *that*…

That H&M photoshoot situation where they had the little kid in the monkey sweater really struck a nerve with me. I still get pissed when I’m reminded of it.

The piece of work (ad / music video / platform…) that still makes me jealous…

I really like the idea and execution of the Travis Scott and McDonalds collab. Seeing a legacy brand like McDonalds recognise and give creative freedom to a rapper like that was amazing. It’s success really showed the influence and buying power of hip-hop and black culture. It was a win for McDonalds, a win for Travis, and a win for the culture.

The creative project that changed my career…

Starting my own clothing company was definitely the creative project that changed everything. I started a brand called Twenty-Four Carat in 2014, which was fortunate enough to see success really quickly. That success allowed me to quit an underpaid job, while also providing me the time and money to go to college and pursue a higher education. Entrepreneurship taught me some valuable lessons and skills that no classroom or mentor could ever teach.

The work that I’m proudest of…

I’m really proud of my decision to go back to school and earn my bachelor’s degree. For me, it was much more than a piece of paper. In completing that milestone, I actually became the first man in my family to reach that level of education, so it broke a generational curse and has set a new standard that will hopefully carry on and be exceeded by the next generations to come.

I was involved in this and it makes me cringe…

In the 2000s I was one of those kids that used to wear headbands and white tees that were three sizes too big. I had a phone clip on my belt that I used to tuck my shirt underneath so that my Sidekick would show too. I’m not proud of that at all.

The recent project I was involved in that excited me the most…

That would have to be a podcast that I started called ADcademics. The show featured one-on-guest guest interviews that aimed to expose students and entry-level talent to the many career paths within the advertising industry, while also providing a platform for diverse industry talent to tell their stories and offer up advice to those in need. It was a fun challenge having to wear so many hats from writing shows, recording and editing them myself, designing artwork, researching people and companies, booking talent, social media management, managing the streaming platforms, etc. It was super challenging yet rewarding at the same time being able to help so many people learn more about an industry that I have grown to really enjoy.

During the shows two year run I was able to record 33 episodes that featured guests from some of the top agencies and brands in the world like Wieden + Kennedy, Google, TBWA/Chiat/Day, Coca-Cola, Ogilvy, 72andSunny, Deutsch LA, Deutsch NY, Saatchi & Saatchi, BBH, Media Arts Lab, Omnicom, Reddit and more.

I recently ended production of the show, but it’s still available to stream on Spotify and Apple Podcasts if anyone’s interested in giving it a listen.

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Deutsch LA, Fri, 22 Jan 2021 16:42:21 GMT